Counterpoint: The Cavs Should Stay Away from JR Smith
August 23, 2010
Yesterday, Brendan posted a really well-reasoned piece about why the Cavs should go after JR Smith if he is, indeed, available. A quick overview of his points:
- Young, yet a 5 year veteran
- Versatile scorer
- Can score on the break
- Friendly contract
Brendan also notes that Smith brings a lot of baggage with him, but that his output on the floor outweighs whatever else he drags through the door behind him.
OK, let me start by saying that I don’t think JR Smith is a bad guy. I don’t think he’s crazy. He’s got a few too many neck-tats for my liking, but that’s just because neck-tats tend to weird me out. I admire the guy for acknowledging his bad lifestyle choices in the past.
But here’s the thing: The Cavs are going through one hell of a transformational year. They lost a once-in-a-generation franchise player. And they had to deal with their own player baggage with the Delonte West episode all of last season. So Smith’s baggage, however well he’s dealing with it, is not for a team that’s trying to expel any bad mojo. The Cavs need to avoid all drama, and work with a clean slate.
JR’s also pretty notable for dropping 40 points in a game every now and then, which inevitably involves sinking a few ill-advised 3s. So here’s my next issue: yes he’s a versatile (and at times volume) scorer, but he’s a play-breaker and jacks up a ton of shots. Sometimes the team would score, but he would mess with the offensive flow. His career PER is 15, which is exactly average (he peaked 2 seasons ago with 18+, when the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals). And I know the situation would be different in Cleveland, since he would probably be the first option. But would that make him more or less efficient? Do we want another year of watching one guy dominate the ball the whole time? Fans were wary of it when LeBron did it, and he’s like 50x (rough estimate) better than JR.
Blogger extraordinaire Matt Moore said to me that the Cavs’ #1 priorities next year, if they are serious about rebuilding quickly (which they should be) is to make Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao look awesome enough to trade for some picks. Picks are about the only thing that have currency after the new CBA, and right now the Cavs have a ton for the future, but they need a few more if they are going to go the Seattle-OKC-rebuild-with-a-young-and-talented-core route. JR Smith, as Brendan noted, would become the #1 option and would take away attention from those other pieces. How much he’d do that is debatable, but he would definitely be the go-to scorer on the team.
Here’s my biggest problem with a guy like JR Smith coming to the team. And by “guy like” I mean a play-breaker. Mike Brown was fairly-or-unfairly criticized for his unimaginitive offense. I think he could be equally criticized for his inability to control when LeBron would break plays and work LeIso. A lot of times, it worked. But really, even if Mike Brown wanted to stop him, he would be fearing for his job. The point I’m trying to make is that the Cavs, with the Byron Scott hire and the team of young, versatile, and moldable athletes they’ve assembled so far are making a statement: Scott is in charge. There are leaders on the team, sure. But Scott is going to be the authority. And if you have a guy like JR who will break plays and undermine the coach, it will degrade Scott’s integrity in front of the rest of the players. And after all, that’s what did in Mike Brown. And that’s what did in Scott in New Orleans. If as a coach, your players don’t listen to you, you have no chance of reaching the goals you set for yourself as a team.
I know it would theoretically only be 1 year with JR, but that could be enough to ruin Scott’s hold over the youngsters on this team for good.